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AIDS programmes bear fruit in the workplace

01 December 2011 Old Mutual Corporate
Neil Parkin, group assurance actuary at Old Mutual Corporate

Neil Parkin, group assurance actuary at Old Mutual Corporate

Though group disability claims due to Aids have continued to rise over the past decade, latest figures by Old Mutual show that the duration of Aids-related claims have remained short as a result of improved treatment plans and workplace Aids policies which enable claimants to return to work.

People may incorrectly assume that the reduction in the duration of Aids-related claims is simply due to a high death rate amongst claimants. In fact they are at least five years behind the trend, says Neil Parkin, group assurance actuary at Old Mutual Corporate.

Given anecdotal feedback and stories of Aids claimants returning to work, Old Mutual Corporate analysed the reasons for the stopping of Aids claims over the past nine years. “In 2003 and 2004 more than 65% of Aids claims ended due to the death of the claimant. Since then there has been a definitive and consistent drop. During this year only 20% of claims ended as a result of death,” says Parkin.

This outcome illustrates that the impact of Aids on disability insurance remains limited, given the shorter duration of claims. Furthermore, in 2011 well over half of all claims that ended saw the claimant returning to work, says Parkin.

Compared to the average disability income claimant who is paid for six years, and longer-term conditions such as psychiatric diseases which are paid for over ten years, the duration of an average Aids claim is just 1½ years. “Besides the obvious benefit to the patient, Aids claimants returning to work can reflect a boost to an employer’s productivity and a reduction in staff turnover. Continued treatment will not only see claimants being able to work again, but will reduce absence once the claimant returns.”

Parkin says one cannot ignore the effect of new treatment regimes and increased efficacy of drugs. It would even seem that Aids is changing from being a certain death sentence to a chronic and manageable disease.

Nevertheless the disease remains a concern for the workforce. In 2001 just 1% of Old Mutual’s group disability claims was due to Aids. Ten years later this number has grown, with Aids claims now accounting for more than 10%. Parkin says this is partially the result of higher levels of disclosure.

“As stigmatisation becomes less of an issue and trust grows regarding the confidentiality of information, we have found that claimants are more likely to disclose their status and seek treatment. We are thus classifying more claims correctly, and employees are likely to submit claims earlier than in the past,” he says.

Though there have been challenges along the way with the government’s roll-out of antiretrovirals, many employers have seized the opportunity to implement their own programmes. These efforts have ranged widely, from raising awareness of the disease to prevention campaigns, testing, treatment and stigma reduction. “Our results indicate that these programmes may be bearing fruit already,” he says.

Parkin says there are many serious and hard messages still to hear this Aids Day. “But if our results echo across the industry, they certainly point to a very encouraging development.”

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